Sep 19 2017

Foundation Teams Up with Microsoft to Bring Video Games to Hospitalized Children

For many kids in hospitals, access to video game tech offers socialization, therapy and education.

Most people agree video games are fun. But for children in hospitals, video games can be a lot more, providing kids with an outlet for therapy, socialization and, for those confined to their beds or rooms, recreation and distraction.

Research helps back the idea that video games provide cognitive, motivational, emotional and social benefits to children and young adults. In most hospitals, however, medical-grade video gaming equipment doesn’t come standard with a room.

The Gamers Outreach Foundation is looking to change that.

In partnership with Microsoft and other organizations, the nonprofit aims to bring gaming hardware and software to children’s hospitals across the country to help young patients better cope with long-term medical treatment.

There are all these different scenarios where the video game are helping to aid the health care process, whether that be through distraction or therapy,” the nonprofit’s founder, Zach Wigal, tells Forbes. “It’s a way for kids to be motivated to get out of bed, and interact with other kids in the hospital.”

Video Game Kiosks Offer Healing Kids an Outlet

Since it was founded in 2007, Gamers Outreach has worked with more than 20 hospitals across the country — including Boston Children’s Hospital and Phoenix Children’s Hospital — providing more than 100,000 children each year with “recreation therapy through entertainment,” according to Wigal.

The foundation reaches children mainly by providing hospital-proofed, medical-grade Xbox rigs, called GO Karts, which can be wheeled around the hospital and into patient rooms.

The GO Karts are equipped with a gaming console, monitor, controllers, an assortment of games and occasionally a virtual reality headset, to “help provide patients with a familiar social environment through gameplay,” according to a press release. Each kiosk also includes an internal lift mechanism, which allows hospital staff to adjust the height of the kiosk to each individual patient’s bedside.

Moreover, the organization helps to recruit gaming enthusiasts as volunteers at children’s hospitals equipped with the devices.

“They’ll assist hospital staff with minor tech support issues, sometimes they’re helping distribute games to various kids throughout the hospital and other times they’re actually just playing games with kids,” Wigal tells Forbes. “You know kids get really excited when somebody comes along and wants to help them build a world in a game like Minecraft.”

Patients play video games on GO Karts provided by Gamers Outreach. Photo: Jared Richter.

With the help of individual donations and Microsoft fundraising, Gamers Outreach already has provided more than 36 GO Karts across 19 U.S. hospitals.

With the aim to continue spreading the video game love, Gamers Outreach partners with organizations that can help to further its mission, including a partnership with nonprofit Child’s Play, announced in July, which will construct GO Karts for more than 120 hospitals and healthcare facilities.

“These kiosks are an ideal solution for children’s hospitals to bring the familiar fun of video games to kids while keeping things simple to use and maintain for Child Life staff,” said Kristin Lindsay, the Child’s Play Foundation coordinator, in a statement. “Games are a key factor in normalizing the hospital experience for pediatric patients.”

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